By: Law Murray
After 11 weeks of the regular season and two weekends of the playoffs, the 28-team Drew League will finally crown a champion. It will be decided Sunday, August 9, at 3 p.m. between #2 seed M.H.P. (11-3, Russell Brown Division Champion) and #2 seed LAUNFD (12-2, Keith Anderson Division Champion). It’s a matchup between M.H.P.’s fast-paced approach and LAUNFD’s methodical, refined schemes.
M.H.P. defeated #1 seed Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars 68-65 to capture the Russell Brown Division Championship behind 32 points and 13 rebounds from DeMar DeRozan, knocking off the defending champs in the process. The Keith Anderson Division Championship was not as close, as LAUNFD defeated the #1 seed Citi Team Blazers 83-72 behind 25 points from James Harden. Both teams also beat the #1 seeds during the regular season. M.H.P. defeated #7 Legacy in round one, while narrowly escaping #3 seed NWA in round two. LAUNFD knocked off #7 C.A.B.C. in round one, and blew out #6 #Juglife in round two.
Let’s break down what may be the most anticipated championship game in recent memory (in case you think we’re lying, check out the line to get in):
MHP PERIMETER OFFENSE vs. LAU PERIMETER DEFENSE:
Most of the shots from M.H.P. will come from The Hawk and the Most Hated Player himself, Swaggy P. They will launch threes at will, although they will need to shoot them better than they did Sunday (DeRozan and Nick Young combined to make only 7/24 3s). The rest of M.H.P. made only 1/8 3s. That all said, LAUNFD has their work cut out for them trying to keep DeRozan and Young in check. They combined to score 48 of M.H.P.’s 68 points yesterday, and they’ll have a size advantage on nearly all of LAUNFD’s wings. ADVANTAGE: MHP
MHP INTERIOR OFFENSE vs. LAU PERIMETER DEFENSE:
While Victor Rudd is a 6’9” matchup problem, his offensive role has been severely reduced in recent weeks. He’s a distant third on the touches totem pole. Rudd will be off the ball and asked to stretch the floor, which isn’t really his strength. M.H.P. big men Reggie Murphy and D.J. Shelton are afterthoughts offensively even when they have the size advantage; with LAUNFD C Jerome Jordan protecting the rim, Murphy and Shelton may not get ten shots combined. LAUNFD has struggled to rebound even with Jordan, so that’s something to watch for. ADVANTAGE: LAU
MHP CONTROL vs. LAU PRESSURE:
M.H.P. PG Michael Williams is more comfortable looking for his own shot than he is setting the table. Young has encouraged Williams to stay aggressive, and that’s what he’ll do. M.H.P. isn’t much for passing, with Williams and Rudd staying aggressive and Young and DeRozan staying iso heavy. That said – M.H.P. did a great job taking care of the ball against Houdini’s All-Stars, and LAUNFD doesn’t force many turnovers. ADVANTAGE: MHP
MHP PRESSURE vs. LAU CONTROL:
M.H.P. has improved defensively, but not in this category. They don’t really concern themselves with playing the passing lanes, which is a shame since they excel in transition. They had only one steal in the Russell Brown final. Meanwhile, LAUNFD has an abundance of dynamic playmakers and experienced ball handlers: co-captains Bobby Brown and Pooh Jeter, Harden, “Old Money” Cuttino Mobley. LAUNFD is a poised team, one that is used to the pressure. ADVANTAGE: LAU
MHP INTERIOR DEFENSE vs. LAU INTERIOR OFFENSE:
This is where M.H.P. has made the most improvement defensively. Big men aren’t going off against these guys. Murphy and Shelton have more than enough size and bulk, and they’re great athletes who can challenge shots at the rim. The downside to that is the dunks that wind up in their grill (Money Mike, Mike Jones), but otherwise, M.H.P. has been very good inside lately. Rudd is also capable of blocking shots and having big rebounding stretches. LAUNFD has Jordan and Brandon Bowman in the paint, but those players aren’t seeing many touches. Don’t expect that to change too much in this one. ADVANTAGE: MHP
MHP PERIMETER DEFENSE vs. LAU PERIMETER OFFENSE:
Brown and Jeter highlight LAUNFD’s offense from a leadership standpoint, Harden is the most talented player on the floor for either squad, and the wealth of snipers and slashers runs deep for LAUNFD beyond those players: Brandon “Bottoms” Heath, Dijon Thompson, Hassan Adams. If Dorell Wright suits up, that’s another perimeter threat. Young and DeRozan will need to be at their most engaged on defense, but the biggest help they’re going to get will come from reserve wing Ray Hairston, a rocked-up athlete who may be the only “dirty work” player on the squad. But will M.H.P. play him more than ten minutes? Will it even matter? ADVANTAGE: LAU
MHP SPECIAL TEAMS vs. LAU SPECIAL TEAMS:
I define these units based on the open court game, depth, and the ability to make free throws. M.H.P. is the younger team, and they’re used to running up and down the court with effectiveness. Both teams are about the same when it comes to the free throw line, and LAUNFD is certainly deeper. ADVANTAGE: Draw/MHP
Coach Young has done a solid job with M.H.P. He doesn’t overcomplicate the process, and he has great respect within the locker room. You don’t hear unnecessary drama about his team, and they’re on an eight-game winning streak. But Coach Dark has a strong pulse on LAUNFD. His attention to detail has been superb, and there is no question that his team responds well to him. Just look at how he’s balanced that loaded lineup, leaving neither of the three playoff games in doubt. ADVANTAGE: LAU
M.H.P. is a chill team that doesn’t worry about the next game too much. They have fun, and they have won while having fun. They’re motivated as well, and getting by the defending champs was a huge step. But they’re going up against a similarly motivated LAUNFD team. They won three-straight titles from 2010-2012, then disappeared from the Drew League. They’re back in full force – they know why they’re here and how to get over the top. And the Keith Anderson division left them much more battle-tested than the Russell Brown division did for M.H.P., a sentiment shared by many coaches. ADVANTAGE: LAU
Look, I thought LAUNFD would be in this game. But no one took M.H.P. seriously except the internet. Well, shout out to the internet, because they got behind M.H.P. while many of us at DrewLeague.com held onto the defending champs too long. This will be an outstanding matchup featuring elite offensive talent. DeRozan and Young have complemented each other well, and the overall size advantage goes to the younger M.H.P. squad. LAUNFD will have to come back from a deficit in the middle of this game. And they will come back. Harden is going to get to the free throw line close to ten times, Jeter will do his best to eliminate Williams from the game, and Brown will make sure he and his mates get great looks from downtown. While Rudd may or may not be ready to be the third big scorer in this game, LAUNFD may have five guys in double figures. The Unification’s strength in numbers will be a deciding factor.
PREDICTION: LAUNFD 81, M.H.P. 76